This week the selection of two of the most powerful heads of governments in the world were an abject study in contrasts. American President Barack Obama was swept into an office amidst unprecedented media coverage, innumerable Star Spangled Banners flying in the background, confetti scattered in the air to give it an air of festivity and the emotional pitch that only the Americans are capable of.
Right across the continents, there was another change taking place - of course as you can imagine, minus live TV coverage. In Beijing, incoming President of China Xi Jinping prepared to take over from Hu Jintao as head of the second most powerful country in the world at the week-long 18th National Party Congress.
In the case of the former, there was nothing that was not known, including early life, favourite passions, even his culinary likes and dislikes. In case of the latter, there is nothing known other than the man's name, and that too just about.
While Indian commentators chose to discuss how India stood to gain or lose from Obama's re-election, and the majority opinion suggested a status quo ante, there is precious little available on what to expect from the new dispensation in Beijing.
In more ways than one, the Beijing connection is no less important from Delhi's point of view than Washington's. While India's people to people connect with the Americans is awesome, the contrast could not be more evident in the case of Beijing: limited media coverage, precious little personal contacts and virtually no knowledge of what the other side can do.
Fittingly, the change in China has come on the 50th anniversary of the Sino-Indian border war. What is known about Jinping, however, is that in the run up to his elevation, he visited 50 odd countries to study first hand, presumably, his country's global equations. India is not in that select list. In fact, there is no known contact he has had with any Indian political leader, save the visit of Indian President Pratibha Patil at an official banquet last year.
Former Foreign minister SM Krishna during his several visits to Beijing never got a chance to meet Xi Jinping. The normal practice in Beijing is a formal meeting between visiting dignitaries and the man tipped to be the next Chinese President. Incredibly, that practice seems to have been given a go by. It is not known whether Indian diplomats and their counterparts in Beijing did try for such a get together, but it certainly does not suggest a happy augury.
India would well to engage the new leadership in China. While a galaxy of experts, diplomats, American-Indians and media persons would be waxing eloquent on the Delhi-Washington connection, India's largest neighbour and even larger business rival will predictably be forgotten. With vital interests in the region to protect, including a four-decade long boundary dispute which is unsettled, it would be prudent for Delhi to engage the new Chinese leadership.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already said that `encircling' China, as some experts in Beijing have suggested India is trying to do with its Look East policy, is virtually impossible given its size, it is time to follow up on a growing economic relationship which would be in the interests of both the countries. Modern China, unlike its Cultural Revolution days, realises the value of forging economic relations and India needs to cash on it as much as it can. That remains the strongest guarantee against any further military adventurism.